The 20 Best Players in Spain's La Liga Right Now
As we approach the halfway stage in La Liga it's worth casting our eye over who have been the best performing players over the first four months or so of the campaign.
The usual suspects have continued to provide their usual excellence, whilst certain other individuals have stepped up to the mark, often dragging their team to winning positions during games heading for mediocrity.
Once again a battle for European places is already developing.
It promises to be a wonderful season so let's take a look at the main protagonists so far...
Miguel Angel Moya
Getafe sit proudly in seventh position in the La Liga table and only six points behind fourth place.
Moya has been kept on his toes throughout every game this season and has been more than up to the task.
An ever-present, the Madrid based club would be a whole lot worse off without Moya's contributions.
Yacine Brahimi's influence on his Granada team has been marked this season.
The technically gifted French-Algerian was never better than in the 3-1 win over Malaga and only needs to add more goals to his magnificent passing range to cement his place as Granada's best player.
An average of 82.6 percent pass completion (per whoscored.com) across his 12 games is a fine return for a player whose star is definitely on the rise.
With one eye on the 2014 World Cup Banega has been consistent throughout the campaign, and the standard of his performances has tempted the likes of Manchester United, Southampton and Arsenal to register their interest in the player.
Banega's agent Marcelo Simonian said:
Whomever does sign the 25-year-old will be hoping Banega continues form that has seen a passing accuracy of 84 percent (via whoscored.com).
March 2011 was the last time Carlos Vela donned his national teams colours.
An unexplained ban is what began Vela's long term absence and Mexico have certainly suffered without one of their star men.
Yet Vela himself has just got on with his club football at Real Sociedad and alongside Antoine Griezmann has been one of La Liga's success stories this term.
Giovani Dos Santos
Giovani Dos Santos finally seems to have settled down.
Fans of the Yellow Submarine have taken him to their hearts and he has responded with six goals and two assists in his nine appearances.
As a player schooled in La Masia, Dos Santos has the ability to play right across the front three. Over the course of the campaign he will no doubt be indispensable to Villarreal's rise up the table.
Real Sociedad's Champions League campaign hasn't gone quite as well as they would've liked, but the Txuri-urdin are keeping reasonable pace in La Liga.
Their good start has been due in no small part to Antoine Griezmann's nine goals in 13 games.
His form has piqued the interest of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Juventus according to Charles Perrin of the Daily Express and La Real may find it hard to hang onto their star man if any of those teams meet the £25 million valuation of the player.
Sociedad for their part should do everything in their power to hang onto a player who is integral to their continued success.
Isco has answered any critics in emphatic style.
His four goals in nine appearances is a decent return from midfield and passing accuracy in the high eighties for both the Champions League and La Liga (per whoscored.com) show how well the youngster has settled at the Santiago Bernabeu.
This season has been something of a watershed for Real Madrid's Pepe.
A virtual wholesale removal of the diving and histrionic bully boy tactics from his game (Elche aside) has seen a repeat of the top class defensive performances we know the player is capable of.
Alongside Sergio Ramos, Pepe has been a rock and is a major reason why Los Blancos have only conceded 17 goals throughout the campaign, per whoscored.com.
Eight goals and five assists in 13 games are very impressive stats, via whoscored.com, for Karim Benzema.
The less celebrated of the Real Madrid attacking trident has weighed in with his fair share this term.
Add in Champions League games and it's an equally impressive 10 goals and eight assists in 17 games. The Frenchman has benefited from the space that both Ronaldo and Bale open up, allowing him to go about his work with relative ease.
The swagger of a year ago has returned and Benzema is high on confidence right now. Confidence and a high level of performance that has seen Arsene Wenger casting admiring glances, per Ben Jefferson of The Express.
Bartra has, by far, been Barcelona's best defender this season. His calming presence has been in stark contrast to the haphazard defending of Javier Mascherano and Gerard Pique.
Just why Tata Martino has chosen to leave him out of the starting line-up at all is anybody's guess.
A first senior call up by Vicente Del Bosque for the Spanish national side has recognised the continued good work of the young Catalan.
What a difference a season makes.
Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez looked like a little boy lost last season, with goals very hard to come by.
Whatever happened over the summer to the Chilean it's worked a treat. Just 15 La Liga games in and Sanchez has already found the net on eight occasions and had a hand in two other goals.
When you consider his goals have only come in the nine games he has played, it makes the stats (per whoscored.com) all the more impressive.
During his Udinese days Sanchez played with a natural movement and belief that was missing for most of the last campaign. His desperation to get on the scoresheet often led to him over-thinking even the most simple of situations.
He has recaptured that instinct, which has shone through for his national side as well as at Barca. Bang in form.
Only this week Sergio Ramos was voted the Best Defender in La Liga, a nod to his unbelievable consistency.
Although the award was made in recognition of his performances last season it could quite easily have applied to this campaign.
He's played virtually every minute of every game, and his passing accuracy (per whoscored.com) of over 90 percent across the season is astonishing.
A red card against Galatasaray has sullied his magnificent start somewhat, but it won't give Ramos too many sleepless nights.
Whilst Diego Costa and David Villa will have taken many plaudits for Atletico Madrid's start to the season, Jorge Resurreccion Merodio aka "Koke" has been at the centre of everything good that the club have achieved this season.
Technically superb and a real midfield dynamo, Koke has got his hands dirty in every match he has played this season.
The ridiculously low £16 million buyout clause could cause problems for Diego Simeone during the January transfer window, the omission of Koke from his side potentially derailing Atletico's title bid.
Neymar put to bed any questions as to his suitability for La Liga within his first half dozen games for the Blaugrana.
His inclusion is one of the main reasons why Barcelona haven't missed Lionel Messi quite as much as in previous years.
He will certainly need to look at his goals to games ratio, but his hard work and many assists already show what an asset he is for this Barca side.
Even a half-fit Lionel Messi is more than most La Liga defences can handle.
A stop-start beginning to the season hasn't hampered the Argentine's goalscoring prowess or importance to Barcelona.
Whilst the Blaugrana haven't struggled in quite the same way as seasons past sans Messi, they have lacked the cutting edge that the Argentine maestro provides.
His return to fitness can't come soon enough.
The club have asked me to say on, they said they wanted to build a new team around me. I told them that I want to see what they have done in terms of signings.
We must build a team which will be better than this season. We will see what happens in the summer.
Sevilla kept their end of the bargain and their captain has repaid them in droves.
Rakitic's form has been astonishingly good and is one of the main reasons why the Andalusians sit comfortably in eighth place in the La Liga table.
Back in the summer, North London seemed the most likely destination for David Villa. James Dickenson's report for The Express detailed the player's father admitting that, but for Atletico Madrid's interest, his son would be a Tottenham player:
Until Atletico made its appearance, his plan was to play abroad. Barca wasn't counting on him, and we have to be grateful for the club’s help in making his leaving so trouble-free.
We thought that his time in Spain was up, but when Atletico came on the scene, his enthusiasm came right back.
My family and I are delighted that he is staying in Spain. Atletico is a different type of club that you can’t help but like.
Spurs' loss has definitely been Atleti's gain with Villa showing all of the class we have come to expect from the Spanish national team's record marksman.
Are Barca, who are looking for a natural goalscorer to help Messi, beginning to regret their decision to let El Guaje go for just £4.4 million?
A poor first few games can be attributed to a lack of match fitness and injury, but the Welshman has begun to fire on all cylinders recently showing the Madrid faithful exactly why Florentino Perez courted him throughout the summer.
Solid link up play with Messrs. Benzema and Ronaldo—the trident now dubbed the "BBC"—and a total of nine goals including his first Madrid hat-trick, sees Bale with the same goals total as the entire North London outfit.
Atletico Madrid have gone from strength to strength this season due in no small part to the excellence of Diego Costa.
Alongside David Villa, Costa has led the line with aplomb, weighing in with goals and man-of-the-match performances aplenty.
Only two goals behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the European Golden Shoe, his importance to the "mattress makers" is obvious.
Not too many arguments as to who has been the best performer in La Liga so far. Cristiano Ronaldo has been head and shoulders above everyone throughout this campaign.
He may not have a team trophy to show for his efforts but as Ben Hayward of Goal.com points out, his individual stats have been astonishing across 2013:
66: Ronaldo has hit 66 goals so far for club and country this year, beating his previous record of 63, in 2012. He still has six more games to add to that tally (Madrid have eight matches left in 2013 but Ronaldo is suspended for the two Copa del Rey clashes against Olimpic de Xativa). The 66 goals have come in just 55 appearances for Madrid and Portugal. Last year's 63 came in 71 appearances.
64: By comparison, Ronaldo's rivals for the next Ballon d'Or crown, Messi and Ribery, have scored a combined 64 goals in 2013.
56: The bulk of Ronaldo's goals in 2013 have come with Madrid. The Portuguese has netted 56 times in 46 official games for his club this year.
47: The Madeira-born forward's treble against Sweden saw him reach 47 international goals and equal the Portuguese record held by former Paris Saint-Germain striker Pauleta. One more goal would see Ronaldo, who has 109 Seleccao caps to his name, claim the record outright.